Should Australia accept South African refugees? Yassmin thinks it’s racist


Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has asked his department to investigate whether white South African farmers can be accepted into Australia as refugees, following the spate of anti-white violence and the recent moves by the South African government to expropriate them.

The announcement has gone down like a lead balloon with the South African authorities:

“That threat does not exist,” the South African foreign ministry in Pretoria said.

“There is no reason for any government in the world to suspect that a section of South Africans is under danger from their own democratically elected government.”

The foreign ministry added: “We regret that the Australian government chose not to use the available diplomatic channels available for them to raise concerns or to seek clarification.”

This despite 400 recent reported attacks and over 80 murders. Not to mention of course the now official government policy to expropriate white farmers, originating with a politician who wants to “cut the throat of whiteness”, something that his followers are now doing quite literally.

Even more outraged than the South African government is Yassmin Abdul-Maghied, formerly our very own, currently in a political self-exile in the UK:

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OK, I definitely think she’s outraged.

Yassmin’s argument, if you don’t feel like reading the whole thread, boils down to the following:

1.Myanmar’s Muslim minority Rohingya are being currently ethnically cleansed (by the Nobel Prize Winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi not least), yet no special consideration was extended to them by the Australian government, despite Myanmar being our regional neighbour and Rohingya’s plight being much more serious than that of white South Africans. This is double standards.

2. Furthermore, Dutton’s contention that “We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare” is deeply racist, because a) this is not a valid criterion to asses refugees against, and b) it implies that only white people, as opposed to other races, are so upstanding and thus deserving of entry into Australia.

Taking the second point first, Abdul-Maghied is right in that the refugee status is accorded on the basis of having a well-founded fear of prosecution, and not any other factors relating to person’s character or circumstances. But considering that there are now 65 million refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people in the world, and the number of humanitarian spots available for resettlement in mostly the developed countries is substantially smaller, every refugee intake will prioritise some and therefore discriminate against others. For Abdel-Maghied the prioritising factors are the severity of the persecution and the proximity to Australia. By that standard we should be accepting not Rohingya but the West Papuans, subject to a long-running but silent genocide at the hand of the Indonesian authorities.

In light of the above, Dutton’s thought-bubble criteria – if they were actually to be officially applied in the future – are as valid as any other, particularly considering that the refuge offered by Australia is almost always permanent and not merely temporary. Think of the obverse of Dutton’s statement: “We recognise and accept you as a refugee and we don’t care whether you abide by our laws, want to integrate, will work and won’t be over-reliant on welfare.” It’s absurd for a sovereign country not to care about how all migrants will fit into the broader society, and that includes refugees too. Government’s responsibilities under the Refugee Convention do not supersede the responsibilities towards own citizens.

When we talk about any groups of people we invariably generalise. It’s never the case that a certain characteristic applies to all or no members of a particular group. So what we are concerned here with are the percentages and therefore the odds. And there is no doubt that there are migrant groups which integrate worse than others (as seen through the prisms of, among others, criminality, employment, and welfare dependency) and this includes higher proportions of the refugee intake, no doubt partly because of the effects of trauma that many refugees suffer, but also because the refugees tend to come from quite different cultural backgrounds, which make it more difficult for them to fit in the Australian culture and society.

Take, for example, the imprisonment rates (per 100,000 of Australian population born in a particular location):

prisonNot all by any stretch, but certainly some migrant groups are incarcerated at much higher  rates than the Australian born. Technically, the news is good for migrants – while 28 per cent of Australians have been born overseas, they constitute only 18 per cent of the prison population. If you however exclude the quarter of the prison population who are Indigenous and Islanders (a phenomenon all of its own), the difference narrows substantially. But then no one is arguing that immigration should be reduced to zero because all immigrants are criminals.

“Thing is, white people break the law all the time. They rape, steal, terrorise… and so do brown people, black people, green people – etc No one group of people has the monopoly on ‘goodness’, ‘civilization’ or ‘perfection’, despite what Dutton or others might say,” tweets Yassmin. And again, she is right, to a point. Of course there are no monopolies – but there are differences in percentages. Coincidentally, they have nothing to do with race, but much to do with culture, because unquestionably, some cultures find it much easier to integrate into Australia and others find it much more difficult.

And because we are talking about specifics here – the white South African farmers – I’m willing to make this bet with Yassmin, $1,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice: should Australia accept South African refugees in this or the next financial year, let us compare after 5 years their social indicators (such as levels of employment, welfare, and contact with the law) with the those of the remainder of the refugee and humanitarian intake for that year, either as a whole or any one from the top ten nationalities in the intake specifically, and see who performs better in those indicators of integration.

Turning briefly to Yassmin’s first point regarding the double standards. As I mentioned above, every refugee intake selects some on some basis and therefore discriminates against others. Let’s take a look at the most recent available data on the national break-down of Australia’s refugee and special humanitarian intake in 2015-16:


For several years now, Myanmar is one of the top three countries of origin, so it can hardly be argued by anyone that Australia in general, or Minister Dutton specifically, is ignoring the plight of Burmese refugees. Secondly, as reflective of the geopolitical realities, the refugees come from Asia and Africa; with a handful of exceptions none of them are white. Thirdly, an overwhelming majority of them are Muslim.

In this context, to argue that a possible future decision to let in a small number of white South African farmers as refugees is somehow racist or discriminatory is simply absurd. Which, of course, will not prevent even more outrage over the days ahead from the commanding heights of compassion. If there is one thing we will learn in the near future it’s that all refugees are welcome, except the white one, who are most likely racist and deserve what they are getting. Gough Whitlam had infamously raged against the Vietnamese boat people being like “the fucking Balts”. Stay tuned for the 21st century rage against the fucking Boers.